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Monday, July 14, 2014

NIH Plans 12-Year, $4.5 Billion Brain Mapping and Research Initiative

by Kurt Samson

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced it will seek $4.5 billion for a major brain research initiative through fiscal year (FY) 2025 to develop, validate, and integrate new technologies to map neuronal circuits, and measure fluctuating electrical and chemical activity within and between such circuits, toward a better understanding of human cognition, and how related problems contribute to neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) working group presented its final report to the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH on June 5. The committee enthusiastically endorsed it and NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, accepted the report in its entirety, calling the plan “bold and game changing.”

The report outlines an investment of $400 million each year for fiscal years 2016–2020, focusing on technology development and validation, and $500 million yearly for fiscal 2020–2025 to focus on integrated applications of these technologies to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain.

The working group emphasized that its cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN initiative will “supplement, not supplant,” NIH’s existing investment in basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research.

“While these estimates are provisional and subject to congressional appropriations, they represent a realistic estimate of what will be required for this moon shot initiative,” Dr. Collins said in a statement.

The BRAIN Initiative is a joint project of the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An interim report released in September 2013 called for an investment of $40 million for fiscal year 2014, and President Obama has requested $100 million for NIH’s component of the BRAIN project in his fiscal year 2015 budget. In December 2013, NIH announced six funding opportunities in response to high priority areas identified by the BRAIN Working Group’s interim report.

The new report set seven primary research goals, including:

• Identifying and providing experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease;

• Generating circuit diagrams that vary in resolution from synapses to the whole brain;

• Producing a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity;

• Linking brain activity to behavior with precise interventional tools that change neural circuit dynamics;

• Producing conceptual foundations for understanding the biological basis of mental processes through development of new theoretical and data analysis tools;

• Developing innovative technologies to understand the human brain and treat its disorders; and,

• Creating and supporting integrated brain research networks; and integrating new technological and conceptual approaches produced in the other goals to discover how dynamic patterns of neural activity are transformed into cognition, emotion, perception, and action in health and disease.

The report also establishes seven “core” principles that will be followed, including:

• Pursuing human studies and non-human models in parallel;

• Crossing boundaries in interdisciplinary collaborations;

• Integrating spatial and temporal scales;

• Establishing platforms for preserving and sharing data;

• Validating and disseminating technology;

• Consideration of ethical implications of neuroscience research; and,

• Creating mechanisms to ensure accountability to the NIH, the taxpayer, and the community of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscientists.

     See the full story with commentary from outside experts in the July 17 issue of Neurology Today. Read more about the federal BRAIN initiative in our archives: